Jan 5, 2012

Dear Self

Dear Self, So nearly a year ago, we posted a letter to ourself ending with the admittedly sarcastic hope that next year we would look back on 2011 and laugh at our misery and melodrama. I am pleased to note our intuition did not fail us and we can indeed look back over the year and laugh.
Because sweet mother of ducks, we had no idea just how much worse it would get.
I am officially chalking up 2011 as the worst year of my life. There have been some good things...and there have been some things that are good when considered with the fact that I could've been run over by a truck instead.
Let's start with the unmitigated good.
1. The births of my nieces, J and E. Love those girls, so much.
2. No more relatives have died.
Huh. You know, up until this very moment, I thought I had more. I really did.
The good by default (considering I could have been run over by a truck instead).
1. I'm pretty sure I still like teaching.
2. I'm not living in my car.
Four. Four bright spots in the shambles that is my life right now, and two of them are bright by default. Awesome job, there, Elf.
I don't even really know why I'm writing this. Won't change anything. Or maybe I'm just some kind of masochist, enumerating my failures here. I don't even know at this point.
Oh Life, how over you've fucked me, let me count the ways...
1. I left the school I was teaching at. For the second year in a row, even though I knew it would look bad on my resume'. I couldn't stat there, though...if there is one thing I've learned, here, it's that inner-city charter schools in Ohio are miserable, miserable places. The "management team" running the company had no idea what they were doing, throwing policies in place that were utterly useless in dealing with our students. I literally had a kid in my classes who punched a teacher in the face, threatened to hit another one, had a total of about fifty write-ups. The principal moved to expel, the parent wasn't even trying to contest it, and "management" overturned the expulsion because the kid had an IEP and they were worried about going to court. Which they wouldn't have because I and my team were professionals who followed all student IEP's to the letter. Which is neither here nor there because their solution was to pull the schools intervention specialist as a full time "aide" for this one child to basically control him so we could get some teaching done in the class.
Which meant none of the other special needs kids in the school on his roster were getting their instruction hours with him.
Which was completely fucking illegal.
Out of a staff of twenty-odd teachers, nine of us declined our contracts. Not "weren't asked back", declined to COME back.
I couldn't make myself go back to a school that made me feel the way that place did. Unfortunately, this summer saw schools cutting positions instead of hiring (thank you Governor) and so I have joined the ranks of the unemployed. But since I quit, I can't get any unemployment benefits. So my choices basically boiled down to go back to a situation where I was regularly cussed at, threatened, at risk of being injured breaking up a fight, talked down to and undervalued by management...or live life with no health insurance or steady paycheck. I chose the latter for the sake of my sanity. Still not sure if that's the right decision.
I'm currently living with my mother and subbing. I get enough work to get by...but my savings are dwindling and I live each month with my heart in my throat until I get enough sub days that I know I'll have enough to pay all my bills that month. Yay.
Moving back in with my mother has been...difficult, but I can't in good conscience complain as she's the reason I'm not living in my car.
2. I had to have my dog put down. That one's still fresh.
3. Extended family situation has gotten worse, not better. Now we're also having to deal with my aunt running her and my grandmother into the poorhouse paying off debts my cousin ran up with drug dealers. With that and the family "feud" going on, we've almost hit the white trash trifecta.
4. About a month and a half after one of my sisters announced her pregnancy, the other one announced she was pregnant as well. Accidentally. Well, we're supposed to think it was accidental. In reality, one of her friends from high school emailed me and asked me to try and talk her out of her plan to have a baby so her boyfriend (who had thrice cheated on her) wouldn't leave her. She doesn't know that I know that. That email was a little too late though, so I got to find out she was pregnant via text message from the other sister.
And let me be clear, here. I love her daughter to the stars and back. I'm an awesome aunt, if I do say so myself, and I am so happy that BOTH these babies are in our lives.
But on the heels of last summer's ttc heartache, there is still a part of me that wants to know why the Universe saw fit to let her be a mother and not me.
Hanging out with my sisters is hard now, sometimes. Listening to them talk about the babies and compare milestones and trade stories and advice with our mom. The four of us have always been so close since my parents split up...and now it feels like there's this whole other level of our family that I'm not really a part of.
And what the hell am I supposed to say..."stop being so happy around me, it hurts?" I may be a whiny bitch sometimes, but I'm not that much of a bitch. And it's not like it's completely horrible. I do love my nieces to pieces (yay, poetry!) and I'm happy for my sisters (even though I think the younger one was irresponsiblee as hell and her babbydaddy--now husband--is a giant douchebag)
Just, I'm also sad for me.
I'm glad for my nieces' presence, but sometimes it hurts so damn much. I am so tired of hurting. I'm tired of this near-constant aching, like ends of a broken bone grinding together. I'm tired of never feeling like I've had time to breathe before the next hit comes. I'm so sick of hurting.
The chasm that exists between where I thought I'd be at this point in my life and where I actually am just steals my breath sometimes. How the fuck did things go this wrong?
So yeah, self. We are most assuredly not in the better place we hoped we'd be last year. And okay, the job situation is our fault. We severely underestimated just how bad the Ohio job market is for teachers. I'm not sure staying where we were was something we could've handled, but at least we'd have a job.
Everything else, though. Cripes, what the hell did we do in our last life? 'Cause it must have been horrible. I hope some version of us reads this soon and can say that things are better...but I don't really see that happening any time soon.

Location:Seventh Circle of Hell

Feb 26, 2011

Dear Self

Dear Self,

It is my hope that we can look back on this in a year or so and tell ourselves see? Got through that...no problem. It's all right now.

For the moment, I need to let some of this spew out before I do something stupid or unforgivable. Thing is, Self, we're not all right at the moment. I've always prided myself in being tough and being practical. Being that tree that bends and bends but doesn't break no matter how bad the storm gets. I've spent my life believing that things turn out the way they're supposed to in the end, and God, or the Universe, or Destiny or whatever balances things out in the end and we all get what we deserve. Good things come to good people, and even though bad things happen to good people, it's all made right in the end.

I don't know if I believe that anymore. I'm so close to breaking it scares me and I don't know how to make it stop. I'm so tired. Tired of things going wrong, tired of cleaning up messes, tired of HURTING. I just hurt almost all the time now.

Let's take it one thing at a time, shall we?

School is horrible. Leaving Dayton was the only decision I could make...my school there was unsafe, administration unreliable, and I couldn't stay in chaos. It got me back to Columbus and I'm glad I'm there. But the new school I went to is the worst decision I've ever made. For the first time in my career I'm not sure if I even have it in me to go back to teaching next year. The kids are just as challenging as ever, but the people running this place have tied my hands with stupid, stupid policies that make my life harder in every way possible. I've gotten physically injured breaking up fights, I'm forced to sacrifice an entire class to deal with two hoodlums who should NOT be in a public school because my administration doesn't want to risk a lawsuit if we try to expel. I've been ordered to stop teaching content and just teach test skills. Me, an English teacher, told no novels, no poetry, just test taking. I hate getting up in the mornings and going to work. Hate it. And I try to make the best of what I have, but teaching inner city takes so much out of you. It's a thankless subset of a mostly thankless job and I leave everyday feeling like my soul has been sucked out through my nose.

Things with my family are horrible. A lot of the time. Grandpa died this fall and everything that was tense and uncomfortable between my father and his siblings went to Hell in a handbasket. There's so much hatred and vitriol on both sides, and my grandmother is living out her final years watching her children take sides against each other, and I can't help her. I feel like I'm being asked to choose sides and I hate it. I want my family back. My huge, wonderful, stereotypical Italian family. I want our summer barbecues with more people than the house could hold and our holiday gatherings and the certainty that nothing could break us apart and it's all gone, and I'm starting to realize I'll never have that back. I still have that bond with my mom and my sisters, and I'm grateful for that...but my family used to be so much more.

There is still no Imp in my life. I am starting to wonder if there ever will be. Trying to
Conceive this summer just went...cruelly. I have no other word for it. Three cycles, all BFN. The first wasn't bad. Tried, took a HPT right before my period was due and nothing. Tried again, didn't take a HPT because the dates fell right on my sister's wedding weekend and I just didn't want to know because I'd rather have not had to keep a stiff upper lip while my kid sister was getting married. Had to anyway as my period arrived literally as I was getting into my bridesmaid dress.

Attempt three my period was late! Really late, and I was so hopeful but just a touch gun-shy and I was due for my yearly anyway so just went to my doctor's office for confirmation or denial. And not only was I not pregnant, the doctor decided she wanted to run some tests to see what was up with my period.

A few days later I'm meeting my sister (the married one) and mother for lunch and get the call from my doctor in the parking lot of Red Lobster that my bloodwork, after fifteen plus years of being normal, and slightly long but regular cycles with all signs of ovulation, is consistent with PCOS. And then I go in to lunch trying not to cry and--well, sister is pregnant! Surprise! And she's got ultrasound pictures!

And I hate myself for this, but my first honest reaction, sitting there with the dual sensations of having been gutpunched and kicked in the teeth, was to throw out a glare to the Universe in general and just be like, SERIOUSLY? I love my sister and I'm so happy for her and so excited for my niece or nephew, but there's this little, shameful part of me that is eaten alive by jealousy that she got pregnant as soon as she started trying, while I've been waiting for my Imp for almost six years now.

And I can't understand this. I'm a good person. I pay my taxes, I try to be nice to people. I've dedicated my life to children who need it more than anyone. And I have wanted to be a mom with every fiber of my being to the point of physically ACHING for it every day since I was twenty three. And now this.

And I can't even talk about it with the people who would normally help me with this. My sister has some issues with her pregnancy stemming from her Crohn's disease and my mom and the rest of the family are, rightly, focused on her. I can't add to that stress, especially since there's nothing they can really DO. My sister doesn't need my problems heaped on hers right now and I'm not so selfish that I'd do that.

I just don't know what TO do.

So, so far the new year has entailed the death of my beloved grandfather, the implosion of my extended family beyond all repair, the most miserable school year I've ever had, and my officially joining the ranks of women with fertility problems, rather than being someone who simply lacks a convenient source of Man-juice.

Oh and lots of random crying in my car, when things just get so overwhelming I feel like I'm drowning by inches. That's been fun.

Happy FUCKING New Year.

So, Self, I hope the version of us who reads this down the line can laugh at our melodrama and our misery, 'cause she's in a better place along the road. Because I don't know what we're gonna do.

Location:Corner of PleaseGod and MakeItStop

May 11, 2010

SUCH a Diva


So...good news? Marley is on a new diet that seems to be working extremely well for him. It's more nutritionally sound than the homemade food I had been giving him, much cheaper to make, and better for him long-term.

Bad news? It's comprised mainly of pasta and egg whites. This would not be a problem, except unlike his last recipe, I can't make a large pot ahead of time and scoop it out for him. Why?

Evidently my dog doesn't like the texture of cooked pasta that has then been allowed to sit. Granted, it's not the most pleasant stuff in the world, but my dog, my dog who I have never seen refuse anything food-related, refuses to eat this stuff UNLESS:

1. The pasta is freshly made
2. The eggs have been sauteed to a soft consistency...not too overcooked
3. the additives (bone powder, salt, salt substitute (yeah, I dunno), and choline) are thoroughly mixed in

As long as I do that stuff...he gobbles it like there's no tomorrow.


Of course, I cater to this preference shamelessly. Seriously, I spend more time on my dog's meals than I spend on MINE. I mean, my dog eats better than I do sometimes. But I love him, so it's worth it.

Apr 29, 2010

Prom and Cheetos


How creepy is Chester Cheetah these days?

Seriously...those new commercials with the weirdly unrealistic computer animated Cheetos spokes...cheetah where he's like conducting human experiments and rubbing flight attendants and whatnot? He kinda reminds me of those scary dudes you see on the street corner in the long trenchcoats, chainsmoking and staring at people in unnerving fashion. Like, it used to be, oh hello Chester, thank you I would LOVE some of your delicious (yet basically crunchy death in a bag) cheese-flavored product.

Now it's...oh, hello Chester. No, thank you, please keep your creepy, child-molesting-vibe self away from me. I have no interest in your product.

Or do I pay too much attention to these things?

In other news, I got to chaperone our school's senior prom this past weekend. Not as rollicking a party as some I've ever been to, but everyone seemed to have a good time and I only had to comfort one kid whose girlfriend broke up with him during the last dance. New personal best.

I also had one kid who was helping us set up before the dance run over to introduce his young cousin to me as one of the nicest teachers in the school, which is always gratifying. We talked for a bit, and I'm kind of bobbing along to the music while the DJ is setting up, and all of a sudden the kid looks at his cousin and gleefully proclaims: "See, I told you she was black! I mean, you bleached, Ms. E, but you black!"

Um....thank you? I guess? I can't say that's a compliment I've ever received from one of my students, but it was certainly heartwarming. I think.

Marley is doing much, much better. The lactulose is really helping, so hopefully that's got our problem licked. I'm sure I just jinxed the hell out of myself with that, but whatever. Hope springs eternal.

And I'm submitting my paperwork to get an account at my sperm bank! Yay! Tiny, rather insignificant step, but it's important to me. Imp-Watch twenty ten forges ahead. I'm going up to my sister's this weekend...I think I might approach her about helping me pick my swim team.

This whole process, though I know it'll be more than worth it, can seem rather cold and sterile when going it alone. I am really craving some emotional closeness in choosing my Imp's donor. And heck, it could be some fun bonding time for us. I've decided to try at least one cycle just at home, with no medical intervention. It (sort of) worked once before (heh, THAT was a fiasco of a summer...but I wouldn't trade Africa for anything) and by the time I try it I'll have been on a pretty potent herbal fertility regimen for close to six months. And as I'll be 29 with no real fertility issues, I think I have a decent enough chance of conceiving just doing at home inseminations to justify at least a try. Truth is, I hate the idea of going into a doctor's office and having it done that way. I mean, I'll do it if I have to (I want my Spring baby, and damn it, I don't want to wait another year!), but I would really like at least some aspect of my Imp's conception to be private.

I think this whole process would be a WHOLE lot easier if I was just a loose woman. Yeesh.

Apr 26, 2010

So Frickin' TIRED of My Profession Being Maligned...


So, full disclosure here...

I'm a Democrat. And more or less a liberal (though my philosophies lean more towards the Libertarian school of thought--government should be responsible for our national defense, our infrastructure, keeping the economy healthy, and stay the hell out of our personal lives). It pisses me off that two people I consider brothers in all but blood can't get married in most states because they fell in love with someone who has the same plumbing as they do and are essentially second class citizens in the eyes of the government. I voted for Obama and though he hasn't delivered on everything he promised me by a long shot, I'm gonna give him another year before I lose faith and I still think we're a lot better off than we would be with McCain and the Queen of the Alaskan Frontier doing the driving. I don't think that global warming is quite the immediate crisis Al Gore (who I also voted for) depicted, but I do believe with all my heart that we are having a terrible effect on our environment and we need to work now to protect it and yes, that means sacrificing some comforts and profits. I believe that the Great Designer of our lives and Universe doesn't give a flip what name we call it or how (or even IF) we worship it so long as we do our best to be good people and live good lives.

Am I a bleeding heart liberal? Not quite, but okay, pretty damn close.

And I am a teacher.



I get up every day and stand in front of 60 plus 12-15 year olds for seven hours and for nine months try to teach them how to read, write, analyze text, punctuate their sentences properly, and create smooth transitions in a five paragraph essay. Beyond that, I try to teach them to love literature, how to understand it, how to apply its lessons to their lives. I try to teach them responsibility, respect, self-worth, tolerance. I have to teach them to fight with their words, not with their fists, and how to stand up for themselves, but not go looking for fights. I have to teach them that what their friends are all doing is not necessarily what's best for THEM.

I have sat with children, CHILDREN, and held their hand while they waited for pregnancy test results, I have calmly promised an eleven-year-old girl that if her mother's boyfriend (who had started molesting her) wanted to get to her, he'd have to go through me first, all the while praying that her biological father could make it to the school before her mother did so I wouldn't have to test that promise against custodial laws and the Las Vegas police. I have been thrown up on, peed on, bled on, and pooped on. I have had a gun brought into my classroom, taken knives off students three times, I have had a desk thrown at me. I have waded into fights between boys twice as big as me (and I am not a small woman), waded into fights between girls twice as mean as me (and I can be a bitch, when I choose). I have been kicked, punched, elbowed, and had my eye blackened.

Any given day I am called on to be mentor, teacher, surrogate mother, friend, psychologist, nurse. I keep extra cash in my car in case lunch money and bus fares are forgotten. I quite often spend my one planning period counseling, tutoring, subbing, monitoring, chaperoning, WHATEVER, even though that's the only free period I have and the only time I have to eat lunch. I get paid for a work day that lasts from 7:30 to 3:30, five days a week. Factor in lesson planning, parent contacts, grading, record keeping, copy-making, and I put in an eighty hour work week, easy. More if we're doing projects.

I am expected to keep my license current with research, continuing education, summer classes, and am expected to advance my degree...all at my own expense, with little to no reimbursement and during my "free" summers.

During the course of the school year, I can expect to have my heart broken countless times by the situations my students come from, grit my teeth through frustration of Herculean proportions, and have at least one day where I have to lock my classroom door, put my head on my desk, and just CRY. I can also expect to receive countless hugs, a ton of artwork scrawled out on looseleaf paper (usually some theme of "Ms. E Rocks!" I am proud to say), and the knowledge that I help children to believe in themselves, and am often one of the few people in their lives who believes in THEM.

I do all this for a pittance of a salary that qualifies me for welfare in several states.

And I am bloody SICK of people harping about lazy, evil, liberal activist teachers who don't really care about their students.

Are there some bad apples in my profession? Of course. Same as there are in any profession. Are we all like that? HELL no.

Apr 15, 2010

Stop the Ride, I Want Off


So, I'm having a bad time with Marley right now. Tuesday night he started seizing and he's had a grand mal seizure at least every eight hours since. I've spent the past two nights jerking awake at the slightest noise or movement from him (and twice I jerked awake just in time to move him to the floor from my bed to avoid him peeing all over my bedspread when he loses bladder control) and I had to call off school today because I'd literally only gotten about four hours of sleep in a forty eight hour period and just being that tired and stressed out made me sick. Marley's last seizure was at about nine this morning, and he seems to be a little more alert now, so I'm hoping that he's finally coming out of the spell, but damn.

Seizures are the worst visible symptom of Marley's liver condition. It happens when he gets too much protein in his system and ammonia builds up to toxic levels in his bloodstream. Problem is, I have no idea what triggered these seizures. He got into some cat food at my mother's place over the weekend, but I didn't think he'd gotten enough to throw him into seizures, and he seemed fine on Monday. He's been eating only rice and vegetables for the past few days to try and not overtax his system, and my mom got me some lactulose from our vet that I'll pick up tomorrow, which should help bind up toxins in his system and help him pass them quicker, but I don't know if that'll work.

I'm having to face the real possibility of having to put my boy down. If I can't get these seizures under control...that's no way for him to live. And they're only a visible symptom of a very, very serious internal issue. Liver failure is a slow, painful way to die and I can't do that to him. I knew going into this that hsi long-term prognosis was not good. This condition he has takes a lot of very careful care and dogs with it don't tend to live that long. Large breed dogs with this condition have an even shorter prognosis. But I thought I'd get more than a year and a half.

I don't know, hopefully the lactulose and going back to a very strictly low protein diet will get this under control, but I'm trying to be hopeful and at the same time prep myself for the worst. I've never had to let an animal go. We've had family pets that we've had to put down, but I've never been the one to make the decision, and the ones we had to do that for were "family" pets that my sisters were more invested in than I was. This is MY baby. So, hope for the best, prepare for the worst...that's my motto in life, apparently.

It's been a really nasty couple of weeks. One of my dear friends and I are going through a really rough patch (or at least, I am on my end...I don't know if he's noticed yet). Basically, my friend has had some really hard hands dealt to him this year. I'm in no way making light of the tough choices and situations he's having to deal with. And in a lot of ways, I'm one of the few outlets and support networks he has, so I expect to share the worst of the load with him, and listen to him and try to help him deal with things...but he's not dealing. For the past few weeks, our conversations have consisted of him detailing over and over again how hard his life is right now and how unhappy and depressed he is, and him asking over and over how can he change it, how can he be happy again...and then refusing to take the actual necessary steps.

A family member he lives with has some serious depression issues. He literally lives in fear that he'll come home and find this person has killed themselves. But he won't get the person to sign themselves into a mental health facility (or do it for them) because he'd feel like he let them down by taking them out of their home, and he should be able to help them deal with the depression.

He's having money issues...he lives in a place that he can't really afford the rent on, he's drowning in student loan debt, and his car has needed major repairs this month. But he won't move to a more affordable place because he doesn't like change, won't stop spending a hundred dollars or more a week on takeout because he doesn't like to cook, and won't get rid of the car and take public transport because he doesn't like being around so many people.

He has weight issues. He spends money on a gym membership and then comes home and orders pizza and chinese takeout and ice cream (yes, actually pays to have ice cream delivered), because he needs the comfort food because he's so self-conscious about the weight.

He called me up the other day crying, literally sobbing because he heard a song on the radio that reminded him of his fifteen year old dog that he finally had to have put down a year ago. And I sympathize...I do. If and when I have to let Marley go, I will be an inconsolable wreck. But a year down the line?

It just seems like one vicious circle after another. And it's exhausting trying to be constantly supportive and sympathetic to someone who seems determined to just spin their wheels. Lately I feel like he doesn't want to make any changes...he just wants people to commiserate with how much his life sucks, and then when things don't change or get worse, he can sit back and not take any responsibility for it, because his life is so hard. And I just want to shake him and scream, "You're an adult! No one is going to fix things for you, you have to fix it for yourself."

I mean...I do a lot of venting here. I try to be funny about it, but a lot of my posts are pity parties, and I own that. But writing is my catharsis and helps me drain out all the anger and frustration and resentment so that I can GO DEAL WITH MY PROBLEMS CALMLY AND CONSTRUCTIVELY. I don't whine like this in real life. This is my safe place to just throw a little tantrum in safe anonymity that won't hurt anyone so that I can go be a grownup elsewhere.

*deep breath*

On a positive note...

Dear Universe,

Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, PLEASE let Tammy and Mark have their happy ending next week (and then an even happier ending in nine months). Just, seriously, they deserve it more than just about anyone else in the whole world at this point. I don't even really know them, and I'm not close to Tammy like some of her other blog-stalkers, but I want this for her every bit as much as I want to finally hold my Imp in my arms.

Yours truly,

Apr 4, 2010

iPhones Are Amazing

That's all.

Literally, I just wanted to post about how amazing my new iPhone is. I think it's quite possibly the coolest thing I have ever owned in my life. I've literally just been playing with it for two straight days, downloading apps and using it to surf the web. There doesn't appear to be anything it can't do.

And you know, that's exactly how most post-robotic-apocalypse sci-fi novels and movies start out, but I don't even care. My iPhone can take over the world any time it wants!